Albums of the week: From KT Tunstall to Cher
This week’s newbies are from American musician Cat Power and singer-songwriter Katie Melua .
CAT POWER — WANDERER
This cat bites. On her 10th album as Cat Power, iconoclastic American artist Chan Marshall takes aim at targets of her wrath and annihilates with a succession of devastating lyrical lacerations.
From the short, folky, a-cappella title track, until the record wraps with a string-accompanied reprise, Marshall casts a scornful eye across America.
“In the arms of the one you love, you feel safe, you feel so above the hunger on the streets,” she sings on In Your Face, “your money, your gun, your conscious sweet like honey”.
These are musically ornate guitar and piano songs, but the words are knockout.
Marshall covers Rihanna’s Stay, and stays largely faithful to the original torch song, her smoky, soulful voice adding a tender timbre.
Black is perhaps Marshall’s #MeToo moment, a takedown of entitled men. Horizon, packed with familial references yet lyrically oblique, enchants. A strident, darkly majestic work.
KATIE MELUA — ULTIMATE COLLECTION
Who’d have thought one of the best tracks from Katie Melua’s career would be a James Bond soundtrack song cover?
The Georgian-British singer-songwriter and musician, whose otherworldly voice can inexplicably make you weep and feel pure elation at the same time, possibly bests her previous efforts with her beautiful rendition of Shirley Bassey’s Diamonds Are Forever.
Cloaked in her trademark subtlety, it is one of two fresh tracks on her new greatest hits offering, Ultimate Collection.
A remarkable 15 years since releasing her debut, chart-topping Call Off The Search, Melua has wrapped 28 of her best songs from her seven albums, plus the two new ones, into a package.
Recognisable greats, such as The Closest Thing To Crazy, Nine Million Bicycles and What A Wonderful World, nestle beside some perhaps lesser-known delights, like Tiger In The Night and Moonshine.
Let’s be honest, Melua is one of the most talented musicians of her generation. You are either already familiar with her music and admire its mesmerising beauty and simplicity, or you don’t know her at all. If the latter is true, this is the perfect way to educate yourself.
KT TUNSTALL — WAX
KT Tunstall rocks. I know, weird, right? It is undeniably true on Wax, though, with powerful electric guitars to the fore, including from former Ash axe-slinger Charlotte Hatherley.
Opener Little Red Thread’s staccato riff sets the tone — and bears the stamp of Tunstall’s co-writer and producer, Nick McCarthy of Franz Ferdinand, before the Scottish folk star embraces her sexy side on Human Being and The River.
The album is occasionally derivative but hits its stride midway through, with The Healer (Redux) the heaviest song, followed by possibly the best, Dark Side Of Me.
The emotional, but more musically understated, closing pair of The Night That Bowie Died and Tiny Love provide a strong finish to a fascinating experiment that deserves to be seen as so much more than that.
CHER — DANCING QUEEN
After lighting up the silver screen for all of seconds in Mamma Mia 2, Cher has followed up with an album dedicated to the Swedish disco camp phenomenon that is the Abba back catalogue.
Everything about this seems to have lined up in the stars. A summer of fabulous Prides, the aforementioned smash-hit film and, well, Cher.
But what we have is what at first listen appears to be a pub singer. On a second listen, nope, it is actually Cher — she’s just dialled it in. There is nothing wrong with the performance at all — it’s just flat. None of her usual pep and zing is there. Dancing Queen is a faithful covers album. You get what you sign up for: well-sung Abba songs. However, if you wanted a Cher twist on these classics, you will come away disappointed. This is an album for the hardcore fans of both Abba and Cher.
YOU ME AT SIX — IV
It’s hard to believe this year is the 10th anniversary of You Me At Six’s debut album, Take Off Your Colours. The band have a double whammy to crow about though with their sixth album, aptly named VI, also out.
The 10-track offering is versatile, with singles IOU and 3AM already proving their popularity.
Fast Forward opens the album with some heavy, trademark You Me At Six rock sounds, while Back Again offers you a more upbeat appeal. Pray For Me has hit written all over it — a bit like this entire album.